Most CEOs are action-oriented by nature—and get certain results from “just getting it done.” Once the strategic direction is set, they are often pulled into putting out the “tactical” fires. While putting out tactical fires may give you the feeling that you’re making progress, it’s far more important to set your organization up for success by creating a cohesive, growth-oriented business strategy and marketing plan. Transforming into a modern marketing organization involves building an approach based on not only where your company currently is, but where you want it to go. With this mindset, you will realize tangible results faster and more effectively.
Before you build a fully-fledged action plan, it’s critical to understand what not to do. Based on my work with a variety of B2B and B2C businesses who are looking to reenergize their growth, the six most important “don’ts” of marketing transformation are:
1. Don’t start until you know the dynamics that drive your business.
You can’t change what you don’t know. Before your company puts together a transformation strategy, you need to understand where your current growth is coming from—or why it is stagnant—and where the opportunities for growth exist. In some cases, the business that you’re in isn’t ripe for growth. If you do have a high penetration in your marketplace, you’ll need qualitative and quantitative data to help you determine where you’re going to continue to find success, as well as how to plant seeds in adjacent or new markets. This is Step One in modern marketing transformation—alignment.
Two of the most important factors for growing in your current space include market share and margin. Understanding your margin of new revenue is particularly essential. And, most importantly, do you like the margin profile of your new growth strategy? For example, if you’re selling a certain product, and your margins are declining, you know you probably need to explore new markets or targets in new or adjacent markets. A 360-degree view of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats via a SWOT analysis will help you understand your internal and external environment, so you can adjust your overall strategic plan.
2. Don’t ask for a website design, just yet…
Many C-suites spend much of their time focusing on poor website or Google rankings. They think that by redesigning the look of their hub and its landing pages, they will quickly get a better response and be found by more customers. The truth is, websites are more tactical than strategic. Unless you have an eCommerce business, you’re merely treating symptoms, instead of mending the cause of what is ailing your business.
The sickness that you’re sensing is the lack of a message that truly resonates with your audience. In most cases, you’ll need to design and employ an entirely new content marketing strategy that addresses your buyers’ needs and how you want to grow, before you ever consider something like site changes.
3. Don’t ask why results aren’t high on Google, or copy edit emails, and so on—ever.
Business strategy is nebulous—and it’s far easier to wrap your head around the language of a marketing email or the results of a PPC campaign. While scheduling meetings about your Google and social media analytics may provide you with temporary control and comfort, you should be gathering your fellow executives in the conference room instead. When I consult with organizations about their foremost challenges, the issue typically boils down to lack of alignment. For instance, the CEO may feel that growth is necessary in a certain arena, but the CTO and CFO may not agree.
Again, it’s important to force the conversation about market share, margin, and new revenue with each member of your executive team. Once you’re all on the same page of what constitutes as healthy growth for your company, you can provide marketing with the information they need to design and launch an effective content plan.
4. Don’t pick the wrong technology.
It’s tempting to pick the marketing tools with the most bells and whistles—or head straight to Gartner to choose the upper right magic quadrant. Neither is the correct answer. Instead, it’s important to pick the software that is right for your business. Instead of overinvesting in a high-cost program with every marketing automation and lead assistant known to man, work with your C-suite to pinpoint which types of software will help you penetrate a new audience or nurture the existing one.
Your CFO can provide you with recommendations on your marketing budget—and your CTO and CMO can inform you on what types of analytics dashboards, scheduling assistants, and lead management tools are appropriate for a business of your size and industry. If you start with a few essential products, you’ll have better control of how to scale them over time.
5. Don’t choose the wrong partner(s).
Agencies and integrators are the most significant cost drivers of any modern digital marketing transformation. Choosing the wrong partner can make the quicksand of stagnant or nonexistent growth even harder to dig out of than it was to begin with. Having a command of your needs and budget will help you choose the agency or professional that will not only provide you with the services you require but will also provide you with the right expertise in making the appropriate messaging changes.
Costs rise—and projects fail. Marketing teams are always going to build to budget—and if they’re halfway decent, they’ve been conspiring with IT on what they would do if they ever got the go ahead. Ensure they are building to scale and hiring help in a way that is credible, transparent, and aligned for success in approaching new industries and niches.
6. Don’t forget to make the right cultural changes.
Despite what you may think, cultural shifts aren’t going to slow business down. Once the process is through, your marketing team will be high functioning and collaborative, driving insights for not only the C-suite, but also the sales team. Transform your organizational culture by defining your vision, values and behaviors based on your growth expectations and insights. Ensure each cultural process aligns with your strategy.
Additional methods of driving transformational change includes ensuring each member of every department has a way to measure accountability. Provide feedback and recognition, which helps reinforce your expectations and celebrates progress. Extend your cultural shifts to the hiring process. Make sure every new candidate you bring on your staff appreciates your values and the way you use them to inform the tactics and tools in your growth strategy.
Making Modern Marketing Transformation Work
The CMO’s role is not only to lead their team and provide insights to the C-suite but to be the conductor of the marketing transformation band. The right CMO for your business is strategic enough to help guide your overall company vision and employ the right content messaging, as well as collaborate directly with you and your financial and technology executives to put a cohesive growth plan in place.
By remembering what not to do—and where to shift responsibility—CEOs will not only feel more in control of their organization, but will get a better website, more leads, and have a marketing team that is willing to pull their weight. If you require someone who can help you challenge your current beliefs about your business and where it is going, a fractional CMO can throw the legacy thinking of the organization by the wayside and ask the tough questions to provide an objective view of where your company stands and where it needs to go in the future.